How to get pregnant diet
The nutrients a pregnant woman takes in through her diet are of huge importance to the healthy development of her growing baby. Some of these quality nutrients you must make sure you are having include:
Folic Acid, which is crucial to reduce the risk of birth defects associated with the brain and spinal cord. This nutrient is a B vitamin (B9) sometimes called Folate and is essential for women to take especially prior to conception and during the very early stages of pregnancy (first 28 days) as this is when the defects can occur. Different research projects over recent years have also confirmed a positive connection between folic acid and a reduction in risk of childhood leukaemia.
So, for all women of childbearing age, it is important to ensure a good dietary intake of folic acid. The dose recommended for pregnant women is 0.4mg (400 micrograms) and as it is water soluble (unable to be stored by your body) you may need an additional supplement to ensure you have the right level of folate in your system. Consult your GP or midwife. The best food sources are leafy green vegetables like spinach and kale, broccoli, oranges and citrus fruits, lentils, brown rice and chickpeas.
Protein, which is vital to sustain the rapid growth and development of the foetus. Sources of protein include: lean red meat, poultry, pulses, beans, soybeans, tofu, eggs and cheese. A word of caution about certain dairy products: pregnant women should avoid soft and ‘mouldy’ cheeses (like Brie, Camembert and Stilton) due to the potential risk of Listeria. In addition, make sure eggs are well-cooked as there is always a small risk of Salmonella.
Calcium, which is crucial for the development of your baby’s teeth and bones. Calcium also helps to keep your muscles strong and healthy. If your body does not get enough of this mineral, your baby will use your calcium stores and then draw it from your bones. If you suffer leg cramps, it has been suggested that the correct calcium intake may rectify this problem. Vitamin D is essential for effective calcium absorption and is found in sunlight as well as sardines, salmon, milk, cheese, yoghurt, and spinach.
Fluids like water (preferably filtered or bottled), herbal teas, fruit juices (preferably not from concentrate) are essential to ensure you are hydrated. It is probable that you will be thirstier than before and it is important not to let yourself dehydrate, as this can make you feel tired, dizzy, hungry, and prone to headaches. Fluids to avoid are caffeine containing teas, coffees and, of course, alcohol. Try some tea and coffee alternatives from your local health shop, if giving up feels like a big sacrifice.
Carbohydrates are important as a source of energy that will help your baby to grow. There are different types of carbohydrates available and as a rule, white breads, rice and pasta are not nutritious. Far better sources of carbohydrates come from: wholegrain cereals, wholegrain and rye breads, wholewheat pasta, and fruit and vegetables.
Iron is needed to ensure a good supply of red blood cells, which transport oxygen to your baby and your own muscles and organs, thus ensuring you are not too tired. Vegetarian women may be more prone to anaemia, (iron deficiency), especially in the later stages of pregnancy, as vegetable sources of iron are more difficult for the body to process. Vitamin C also increases iron absorption. Tea (which contains tannin) inhibits iron absorption and should be avoided if possible.
There are good natural iron supplements on the market, available in good health shops, which may be taken. Food sources of iron are found in: lean red meat, wholegrain breads and cereals, kidney beans, spinach and dried fruits.
Vitamin C, sometimes referred to as absorbic acid, is essential for the development of skin, bones and tendons of your baby. It helps tissue repair itself and heightens your body’s resistance to infection. It also helps your body to absorb iron properly. The best food sources of Vitamin C come from: citrus fruits, broccoli, tomatoes, spinach and potatoes.
Vitamin B12 helps to process folic acid in our body. It also assists in making red blood cells and keeping our nervous system healthy. This vitamin is found in: poultry, red meat, liver and fish, but also in cheese, yeast and eggs. This may present a problem for vegan or vegetarians, as there are limits to the amount of dairy you should be eating and therefore it may be prudent to find a supplement that contains this vitamin. Consult your GP or midwife for further advice.
Vitamin B6, also known as pyridoxine, is a vitamin that can help your body to adequately utilise energy from the protein and carbohydrates that we eat. It is also helps oxygen carrying haemoglobin to form. It will aid your baby’s overall development and can help reduce morning sickness during the first trimester. The best dietary sources of B6 are to be found in salmon, eggs, green leafy vegetables, watermelons, bananas, soya beans, peanuts, milk, potatoes, bread, beef, liver, pork and some fortified breakfast cereals.
Vitamin A, also known as retinol, is good for the development of your baby’s eyesight, cell growth, healthy skin, tooth enamel, hair, thyroid gland and resistance to infection. It is not usually advisable to take a vitamin A supplement as high doses may be harmful to your baby. If you are taking vitamin supplements then beta-carotene (a nutrient that gets converted to vitamin A as needed by your body) is the best source for your requirements. For most women though, you will receive all the Vitamin A you need from your diet. The best food sources being found in carrots, dairy products, leafy green vegetables and sweet potatoes.
Vitamin D is usually taken into our bodies form sunlight, so if you cover up your skin when you are outside (perhaps for religious reasons) it is wise to make sure you take around 10mcg per day as a supplement.
Selenium is very important for vegetarians as it is an immune booster. Usually this trace mineral is found in meat and fish, but is also found in nuts, like brazil nuts, which vegetarians should utilise. There is some Selenium to be found in bread and eggs. A recent UK study found that slightly increasing Selenium levels might help to prevent pre-eclampsia in women who were likely to be prone to the condition.
Please consult your GP or midwife for further advice in this area.
The information in this feature is intended for educational purposes only. If you have any concerns about your health, the health of your child or the health of someone you know, please consult with a doctor or other healthcare professional.